review by Jeremy McHugh
History and Technology Follow Design.
The De Rosa Protos is a creature of design, more than manufacture, which is a good thing. Without history, design is a mere cipher, and this exquisite carbon machine reveals it’s past subtly. In days of yore, mythical European elves fabricated architecturally significant steel steeds that could only be properly crafted by artisanal techniques handed down through the generations. Or so the legend goes. And in some ways it’s true- the great names of twentieth century framebuilding were in large part built by simple sweat, physical concentration, and using traditional geometries to ensure a good size for each rider that would handle like a luxury automobile. And for good measure, a unique style rooted in bio-regional culture.
But these days, in the age of information and false mastery of craft, the narrative has fractured- the belief in the old ways has faded, and a cacophony of marketing voices spew forth phrases like “laterally stiff yet vertically compliant,” “it doesn’t matter where the frame is made, all the carbon is the same,” and many other canards. What the hell does that really mean- LSYVC? How could a structure with the shape of the bicycle possibly flex more in the vertical plane than in the horizontal plane? It cannot, the bicycle must flex more in the lateral plane, because it is long and lean and tall, and will twist but not flex upwards.
Geometry and Performance Exhibit Class.
Despite the bold, modern lines and boxy, angular forms of the frame itself, the classic proportions and balance of a De Rosa racing bike geometry remain intact. The seat tube angle is just slightly tilted back, a bit less than 73 degrees, and compared to some race bikes, the chain stays are just a tad bit longer (7mm).
The carbon lay up is proprietary. It is 50% 30 ton high modulus consisting of T800 pre-preg, plus 40% 46 ton ultra high modulus HS40 carbon pre-preg and 10% 60T super high modulus XN-60 carbon pre-preg. In other words, Derosa has all their own carbon mix not available from any other carbon frame manufacturer that puts strength into the frame where it’s most needed- i.e.,. bottom bracket and head tube areas, without any sacrifice in performance, comfort, or any severe weight penalty. This all transalates to a fully handmade, artisanal quality, carbon fiber foundation for the frame, with old world guarantees of reliability and consistency.
The effect is a wonderfully nimble, yet stable feel to the back end of the bike. When seated, a slight lean to one side or the other and the bike leaps through a crisp semicircle, avoiding an obstacle or just carving through a line. There is a definite sense of being perfectly centered between the front and rear axle, providing a sense of confidence and luxury. This subtle balance results in the rider’s ability to flick the frame forward ever so slightly to glide over a pothole, the act of shifting the weight first forward then back effortless due to the exquisite balance of the seat over the longitudinal axis of the bike. At least, that was my experience, riding at 6’ 2” on a 59cm frame with a 57.5 cm top tube. It is the second largest frame on the standard chart, and it handled any and all road conditions with no hesitation, with predictability and Italianate charm.
The head tube is a touch shorter, approximately 10mm, than other brands’ frames of similar size, bucking the “jacked up head tube for charity ride guys” trend. And the effect of the lower front end is noticeable. It is more stable at low speed, and especially at high speed, with a lower center of gravity. Everything is related- the diameter of the tubes, the relationship of the fork rake to the overall wheel base, the selection of the carbon fiber strands to be used in each specific section of the frame. The overall effect is of a fine instrument perfectly in tune. It is not about “vertical compliance,” as if the chainstays are flexing up and down like a damn monster truck. It is about a resonance, and overall balance between the mechanical properties of the frame materials, as dictated by the shape and composition of the frame tubes, and how these elements interact with the frame geometry itself. The Protos hums along as it should.
The Truth of The Matter.
The design is what makes this bicycle worth the asking price. You cannot compare this frameset to other, technically similar framesets, solely on the matter of price and materials. Yes, you can get another high end frame for $2000 less, but it won’t be a De Rosa. It won’t blend elegance, ostentation and class in quite the same masterful way. It won’t have the iconic De Rosa heart inside the O logo on it. But that competing frameset may also not quite handle rough roads and extreme conditions with quite the same aplomb. You may never find exactly that sweet spot on that other, lesser (though still overpriced) frame. But you will on this De Rosa. That is the true craftsman’s guarantee.
From De Rosa:
The frames are available in eight stock sizes from 47 to 61 centimeters plus made to measure and painted to order at extra cost. The stock sizes are monocoques and the made to measure sizes are built from individual tubes of the same carbon lay up but assembled via “carbon wrap” method. Average frame size weight is 1100 grams. The bottom bracket is BB86 which matches perfectly with the oversized downtube and tapered seat tube. The top tube is also tapered gracefully from a larger ovalized tube section at the head tube to a smaller size at the junction of the seat tube. Ugo Derosa would say that his frame is “dynamically balanced,” meaning that not only can the rider find his ideal position for power output but the frame is fast and secure in all racing circumstances, uphill, downhill, at maximum speed when cornering, over cobblestones and in wet, slippery conditions.
As a long time team mechanic for Eddy Merckx, Gianni Motta, Rik Van Looy, and scores of other professional riders, Ugo Derosa has melded tradition with technology in every model frame he has built. The current Protos is the culmination of more than sixty years of framebuilding experience without any compromise as to ride quality, gorgeous cosmetics, acceleration and stability.
The De Rosa PROTOS project merges “know how” with design, producing a true masterpiece with superior technical characteristics, a unique, responsive frame that also provide an increased level of comfort.
The PROTOS “Head Flat Face” fork was designed to absorb and dissipate the vibrations that can be felt riding on rough terrain. The forks ability to reduce aerodynamic drag (CdA) is enviable only to a time trial bicycle. The frame is made of a special mix of three carbon fibers, applied and blended together to obtain a unique result. The composite is made up of 50% TI 800, 40% TI 1000, and 10% XN60.
PROTOS frames have an increased STW (stiffness to weight) value of 35% compared to traditional road racing frames. The innovative internal cabling system is a “fully integrated” solution. The bottom bracket is a 86,5mm and the steerer tube mounts a conical headset (1 1/8” to 1 1/4”).
The frame is available in 8 sizes, and is customizable upon request.
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